Internalized shame is an open wound from childhood that seeps into our psyche and spreads like a virus to everything we think and do. It creates false beliefs about ourselves others can’t refute and silently eats away at our spontaneity and confidence.
How Toxic Shame Differs From Ordinary Shame
- Our own thoughts can bring on shame without the need for an external event or exposure to another person.
- The negative feelings last much longer.
- The feelings and pain associated with shame are of greater intensity.
- It leads to worsening shame spirals that cause depression and feelings of hopelessness and despair.
- We have a negative “shame story” about ourselves originating in childhood.
- The shaming events and beliefs from childhood needn’t be (and usually aren’t) recalled.
- It creates “shame anxiety” about re-experiencing judgment, rejection, and shame.
- It can overtake our personality and be ever-present.
- Alternatively, it may remain unconscious, but make us defensive and sensitive to criticism, or anything we perceive as shaming, such as talking too long or too little, making mistakes, showing emotion, receiving too much or too little attention, trying new things, or looking foolish.
- It creates deep feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, or somehow being unlovable.
- It causes low self-esteem and codependency.
- It can lead to other problems, such as aggression, PTSD, perfectionism, anti-social behavior, depression, eating disorders, and addiction.
Fortunately, we can heal toxic shame.
That doesn’t mean we never feel it. Instead, shame takes its rightful place among our many emotions and no longer controls or overwhelms us. We can remain present and don’t lose our connectedness to others. If we still feel ashamed, we can talk about what happened. Sharing shame diminishes it. We realize our imperfections make us human as we learn to accept ourselves with compassion.
To learn more about shame and follow a recovery plan, read Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You. You can also watch my Youtube on toxic shame.
©Darlene Lancer 2019
Originally appeared on WhatIsCodependency.com